Laurel Hill (Pennsylvania)
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Laurel Hill from Kentuck Knob, Pennsylvania
|Elevation||2,994 ft (913 m)|
|Topo map||USGS Ohiopyle, Mill Run, Kingwood, Seven Springs, Bakersville, Ligonier, Boswell, Rachelwood, Vintondale, Johnstown, New Florence (PA) Quadrangle|
|Easiest route||drive up and hike|
Laurel Hill, also known as Laurel Ridge or Laurel Mountain, is a 70-mile (110 km) long mountain in Pennsylvania's Allegheny Mountains. This ridge is flanked by Negro Mountain to its east and Chestnut Ridge to its west. The mountain is home to six State Parks; Laurel Ridge State Park, Laurel Mountain State Park, Linn Run State Park, Kooser State Park, Laurel Hill State Park, and the Ohiopyle State Park. The mountain also holds the 70-mile (110 km) long Laurel Highlands Hiking trail that runs along its length.
Two state forests are also located on this mountain ridge that comprise over 22,000 acres (89 km2), they are the Gallitzin State Forest and the Forbes State Forest. State Game Lands 42 and 111 are also located on the mountain which also comprise a little over 22,000 acres (89 km2).
Laurel Hill has an average elevation of 2,700 ft (820 m) along its length, while there are individual "knobs" that do rise above 2,900 ft (880 m) . The highest point is above the Seven Springs Ski Resort at 2,994 ft (913 m). Laurel Hill is flanked on its north end by the Conemaugh Gorge and on its south end by the Youghogheny Gorge, both water gaps being approximately 1,700 ft (520 m) in depth. The ridge continues north of the Conemaugh Gorge for several miles as Rager Mountain, which reaches about 2,560'. South of the Youghiogheny Gorge, a short ridge, generally still labeled Laurel Hill, at the edge of Ohiopyle State Park, reaches about 2,920'.
Part of the Eastern Continental Divide between Chesapeake Bay and Ohio River drainage, Laurel Ridge marks the western edge of Pennsylvania's ridge and valley geographic province and its meeting line with the Allegheny Plateau region to the west. it was a significant obstacle to westward movement of goods during the Colonial era.
The towns of Johnstown and Ligonier are located on its northern end, while Confluence and Farmington are located towards its southern end. Two major roadways cross the Laurel Hill, the Pennsylvania Turnpike and U.S. Route 30 crosses further north. The Laurel Hill Tunnel goes beneath Laurel Hill. A number of smaller State roads crosses at other points on the mountain.
Laurel Hill is made up of Mississippian and Pennsylvanian clastic sedimentary rocks, consisting mostly of conglomerate, sandstone, and shale. Formations include the Burgoon, Mauch Chunk, Pottsville, and Allegheny. The mountain is anticlinal in structure.
Along the length of this ridge there are several prominent knobs that rise from the ridgeline. They are as follows south to north; Sugarloaf Knob 2,667 ft (813 m), Painter Rock Hill 2,920 ft (890 m), Birch Rock Hill 2,934 ft (894 m), Highpoint 2,994 ft (913 m), Bald Knob 2,930 ft (890 m), Ulery Hill 2,820 ft (860 m), Pea Vine Hill 2,900 ft (880 m), Pikes Peak 2,840 ft (870 m) and Sugar Camp Hill 2,908 ft (886 m).
The Laurel Hill region shares the humid continental climate of the Middle Atlantic Region of the United States. The mountain ridge itself however has an influence on the local weather patterns, known as orography. This influence on local patterns can cause air temperatures to be several degrees cooler than the surrounding towns and valleys. A difference of 5-10 degrees cooler can be noted depending on weather variables. The orography along with moisture from the Great Lakes can cause heavy snowfall during winter months.
The mountain ridge is oriented at right angles to approaching weather systems, forcing the prevailing westerly airflows upward. As rising air cools, moisture in the air mass condenses, once reaching the saturation point, precipitation results. Laurel Hill may also act as a barrier to systems and slow the movement of storms having an impact on the local area, forming a "micro-climate". Although this mountain is not high enough to create its own weather, its structure is enough to gently nudge weather from hot to warm, cool to cold and from rain to snow.
Flora and fauna
Laurel Hill has a diversity of habitats and with that comes a variety of birds and mammals. The raven and wild turkey are frequently seen on this mountain. The hermit thrush, Canada warbler, brown creeper, and winter wren all nest near the bog at Spruce Flats. During the summer, black-throated and blue warblers, solitary and red-eyed vireos are seen. Raptors on the mountain include the broad winged, red tailed and red shouldered hawks, along with barred owls.
Commonly seen mammals on the mountain include; white-tailed deer, chipmunks, red and gray squirrels. More elusive animals include the woodchuck, raccoon, and opossum. Black bear have also been seen on this mountain but are shy and reclusive and not likely to be come across.
Snakes also make their home on Laurel Hill including the timber rattler and copperhead snakes. Caution should be exercised during the summer months when hiking around rocks and scree areas.
Sundquist, Bruce and William J. Curry, eds. (2004) "A Hiker's Guide to the Laurel Highlands Trail", Sixth edition, Sierra Club, Pennsylvania Chapter and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Beck, Michael, George Cannelos, John Clark, William Curry and Charles Loehr (1975) The Laurel Hill Study. Laurel Highlands Conservation and Development Project; Furnace Run, Laughlintown, Pennsylvania.
Dutcher, Russell R., John C. Ferm, Norman K. Flint and E.G. Williams (1959) Field Trip #2: The Pennsylvanian of Western Pennsylvania. In: Guidebook for Field Trips Pittsburgh Meeting, 1959. Geological Society of America, Boulder, Colorado.
Alan R. Geyer (1979) "Outstanding Geologic Features of Pennsylvania", Geological Survey of Pennsylvania
Jere Martin (1997) "Pennsylvania Almanac" published by: Stackpole Books ISBN 0-8117-2880-3